Where can I park my camper van?

Staying the night other than at designated holiday parks to enjoy the natural world around you be sure to stop at our Dept of Conservation camps and more!


You have, after a lot of thought, perhaps years, reached the decision to visit New Zealand in a motorhome and feel the freedom of the road as envisioned. You have read with spasms of envy as you encounter those stories of devil-may-care wanderers of the highways as they find themselves on that isolated beach, by a trout filled stream or idly having lunch by a scenic wonder.

The choice of the traveling home away from home has finally been agreed upon and all those wonderful joys you have anticipated as much as a kid would at Christmas are about to be yours. Go where you want, do as you like and knowing every night presents a perfect sunset by the sea. The day finally comes to pull away from the old style of hectic life and be free and see the scenic wonders of New Zealand.

You arrive family in tow, van sorted and off you go and now reality sets in. On the road, map in the trusted co-pilots’s hand, you firmly grip the steering wheel as the day progresses. Toward mid-afternoon you begin to wonder where you will stay the night and if you will be able to find a dump station in time to empty the toilet. What kind of trip is this going to be? Never have you had to worry about where you were going to stay for the night and where to empty your loo. What have you done?

Plans were to stay somewhere in an ideal location but you haven’t a clue where that may be. Quickly it is decided the only safe place to stay will be at a motor camp surrounded by others of the same mind. You hope you can back the bus into place in front of your fellow travelers. Don’t forget to fill the water and lets stop at public toilets so we won’t have to empty the loo too often.

I have a line of traffic behind me so I guess I better try to find a place to pull over.
“What do you mean you want to stop at that shop?”
“ Is this all this is going to be a shopping excursion?”
“ Is the refrigerator working? I’m going to need a cold beer.”
“ No this trip isn’t going to be just another extended fishing trip all I said was I might want a beer!”

So slowly as time progresses, hopefully, you will find out there are so many dump stations it is almost impossible to not find one in your travels. The opportunity of locating a beautiful site to park for the evening is just around the corner not too far. If you were lucky enough to have contacted me for yuor itinerary and van there will not be any worries as that is all sorted before you arrive.

Relax there is no need to panic about places to stop. There are plenty especially in the South Island. When first embarking upon the new adventure many people are still in the working life mode and tend to hurry. Try to remember you don’t need to rush on by that side road that looks interesting. Go ahead and pull down and have a look. We have found some real gems in these off-the-beaten-path areas. After all isn’t that why you are out here to experience this country and this lifestyle away from hurry and worry?

Wandering the South Island the past few years from September through May clocking up mega-kilometres we tend to return to overnight spots that are exceptional to us for a variety of reasons. These are sites other than the chosen Holiday Parks though must highly recommend the parks as superior here in New Zealand and love to use them.  Let me say we have stopped at hundreds of locations and never once had a problem. Just be aware and don’t miss out on a spot because of the fear factor.

We have several favourites we have discovered over the years traveling.One favourite place we always stay at near Gore is the Dolamore Park. For $5 per person you are provided a kitchen, a shower and electricity in an expansive and well-maintained park area. Plenty of room for any size vehicle. If you are lucky you may get there when the 500 Rhododendrons are in bloom. The bird choruses may keep you awake though. The Park encompasses 95 hectares of native forest that has a number of walking tracks and trails. There are giant Rata, Totara and Matai many over 500 years old.

Vic Herring is the manager for the Gore District Council who, hopefully, you will get to meet. Really enjoy his insight to the Park and the surrounding Scenic Reserve. He does lock the gate at night so be sure to get there before too late. It is eleven kilometre from Gore on a sealed road (Reaby Road) and signposted from SH94 north of town.

Amberley Beach Domain is another place with plenty of room for large vehicles and also with toilets and water on site plus a few electrical outlets. We usually stay for a night if in the area (mainly because we like the coffee at the Nor’wester Cafe in Amberley). A nominal charge is asked for set up on the honesty policy. Can’t miss the place as it is on both sides of the road when arriving in Amberley Beach.

Another place I almost forgot until we got there today after crossing the Lewis Pass heading for Christchurch. On Route Seven between Culverden and Hurunui is the Balmoral Forest Reserve. Gigantic area with enough room for a number of vehicles. Toilets provided and waste pickup for $5 per vehicle. It is a part of the forest and as such you are in a very shaded and quiet place for a night’s stay.

In the far South in Riverton we always stay at the Globe Backpackers Hotel in a grass area behind the pub. We enjoy the great people who run the pub and the locals who stop by. We call it our southern home. Toilets, showers and water available all at a very nominal fee. One of the best pizzas in New Zealand is created here.

Depaertment of Conservation camps are all set in fabulous locations such as the one in the photo. It is Moke Lake outside of Queenstown. What a setting? and never crowded. Check out my website for the complete list of camp grounds.

On the West Coast south of Hokitika is one of the finest DOC camps around at Lake Mahinapua. Lots of room for everyone with toilets, water provided.

An interesting place that hasn’t seemed to get the publicity it deserves for what it has to offer is in Greymouth. We usually freedom park overnight on the ocean at Cobden. A few minutes away in town they provide showers, toilets and laundry facilities for coinage to all of us passing through. One of the cleanest and best we have encountered. Located on Route Six behind the Caltex station.

A few more places to enjoy the night are at Kingston south of Queenstown right on the beach, Gillespies Beach outside of Fox Glacier, on the ocean at Hapuku north of Kaikoura, along the lakes south of Twizal, the Catlins DOC camps, Gore Bay near Cheviot, the Harwood Domain on the Otago Peninsula, Gabriel’s Gully outside of Lawrence, Les Warren Park and Cape Foulwind, Westport, Boundary Creek DOC camp, Lake Wanaka, and the beach at Hokitika.

Lots more out there I don’t have the space to write about. Here is to always enjoying low cost and freedom camping when you can. be sure to have the self-contained aticker on the van and abide by the rules of cleanliness at your cam site.  This is the joy you were looking for when you decided to go on the road in paradise to see and expereince the best.

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